Missouri Adverse Possession Laws
Adverse possession in real estate law is a doctrine under which a person who is in possession of land owned by another individual may meet certain requirements to acquire a valid title for that property. This doctrine is also referred to as “squatter’s rights.” In Missouri, an individual who inhabits a neglected piece of property for a certain length of time may legally obtain a title through adverse possession.
What Is Missouri’s Adverse Possession Law?
In most cases, an individual acquires the title to a property through a purchase from the owner or via inheritance or gift. However, a title can also be lawfully acquired by someone “squatting,” or occupying and using, a property that has been neglected by its owner for a minimum amount of time. The trespasser or squatter may be able to acquire the title to the land through adverse possession.
According to Revisor of Missouri Section 516.010, an action for the possession of land can be commenced by an individual who claims he or she seized or possessed the premises in question within 10 years before the commencement of the action. When an adverse possession action is filed with the courts, the rightful owner of the land has the right to argue against the claim and bring a lawsuit against the trespasser.
If the landowner has a disability, this can affect the amount of time he or she has to challenge an adverse possession claim in Missouri. An owner with a disability has 3 years after the disability is lifted and a maximum of 21 years to challenge the claim. In addition, if a trespasser or squatter is discovered on a piece of property before the 10-year statutory period has commenced, the owner can take legal action to remove the individual through a formal eviction process.
What Are the Requirements for Adverse Possession in Missouri?
Adverse possession can only result in the trespasser acquiring a valid title to the land or property if certain requirements are met as defined by state law. While the requirements can vary based on the circumstances, they generally include:
- Hostile possession: the trespasser or squatter must be on the property without the owner’s permission or legal authority to be there.
- Actual possession: the trespasser must have actually occupied the land or property, meaning he or she has been physically present and is using the property. Proof of this may include enclosing the area with a fence or planting flowers or vegetables.
- Continuous possession for a minimum amount of time: in Missouri, the trespasser must have occupied the land for at least 10 continuous years with no significant gaps or breaks in occupation during this time.
- Exclusive possession: the trespasser must be the exclusive individual who possessed, maintained and used the property during the 10-year period. Possession cannot be combined with other individuals during the statutory period.
- Open and notorious possession: the trespasser must possess the land or property publicly to give the person who holds the title a chance to take legal action.
The trespasser, who becomes the plaintiff, must show proof of these requirements for a successful adverse possession claim. Although it is not a legal requirement, if the trespasser pays property taxes on the land possessed during the statutory period, this can strengthen his or her claim.
Consult With an Adverse Possession Lawyer in Missouri
Adverse possession cases can be complex. Individuals who are considering adverse possession or dealing with a potential squatter’s rights claim should consider seeking legal advice from an experienced adverse possession attorney in St . Louis.
At TdD Attorneys at Law LLC, our real estate attorneys represent property owners looking to sue trespassers who are unlawfully occupying their properties as well as squatters who wish to file adverse possession claims.